OnStor unleashes one cool NAS cat

Bobcat 2200 NAS Gateway brings flawless support for multiple platforms

See correction below

NAS appliances have become common, and NAS gateways are available to attach to SANs and make data accessible via Ethernet. Every time you want to add a NAS appliance, however, you have to create new drive mappings for any computer that needs to use the storage.

That changes with the OnStor Bobcat 2200 NAS Gateway. Highly scalable, feature-rich, and priced competitively, the offering takes NAS gateways to the next level. The appliance virtualizes storage, allowing companies to consolidate and manage data on storage gear from various vendors as if the data were on a single NAS device. Data moves transparently from one physical device to another while the mapped drive the client uses remains the same.

For example, a single physical storage system can provide multiple virtual file servers; multiple physical storage systems can be combined into a single virtual server; and data can even be moved from one storage device to another with no impact on users.

The Bobcat 2200 is a 1U appliance with two 10/100 Ethernet management/heartbeat ports, four SFP (Small Form Factor Pluggable) Ethernet ports available as fiber or copper, two FC (Fibre Channel) ports, a serial console port, and two compact flash slots for boot drives.

Through N-way clustering, the highly scalable Bobcat expands from one system supporting a couple of terabytes to a 20,000TB system with as many as 400 file systems per cluster, as much as 100TB per file system, and as many as 1.5 million active files. This configuration could support some 128,000 NFS file operations per second and about 20,000 users. (This is according to the company; my lab has neither 20PB of storage nor the capacity to generate that kind of traffic.)

The Bobcat offers native CIFS and NFS Version 2 and Version 3 support; full Active Directory, and NIS (network information service) support; and support for NDMP (Network Data Management Protocol).

You perform initial configuration of the system through the serial console port. After you’ve configured the network information, you access the system through SSH, serial console, or NAS Gateway Manager, a well-designed, easy-to-use GUI management application. NAS Gateway Manager is built on the .Net 1.1 Framework, which means Linux and Unix shops will be limited to the SSH command line for administration unless they install a Windows management workstation. When you launch the NAS Gateway Manager, it prompts you for the IP address of the management interface of the Bobcat; it won’t search for manageable boxes.

Configuring the file systems and ACLs (access control lists) is simple. You import client log-in information from either Active Directory or NIS. You may configure the Gigabit Ethernet ports in aggregated mode so that multiple physical ports can be treated as a single logical port, with the load balanced across all ports. Fail-over is automatically supported; you may also choose active/passive fail-over mode.

In my tests, I quickly created a virtual volume, made it accessible to clients, and then mirrored the volume from one array to the other with no perceptible impact on client-file operations. I also moved the volume from one storage array to the other without changing the client drive mapping or affecting client file access during the data move.

The system supports both NFS and SMB (Server Message Block) file access on the same volume, with file access control, file security, and file locking supported from either format simultaneously. File locking is performed at the block level, file level, or path level. Locking at the path level means locking a specified directory tree, which ensures file operations such as copying or deleting directories are not compromised.

The Bobcat supports Windows mandatory byte-range locking and NLM (Network Lock Manager) advisory byte-range locking. In my testing, I was unable to cause errors when attempting to access files simultaneously through Windows and Linux.

Shares are NFS format, CIFS format, or both. User names identical in both domains are automatically mapped. If the names aren’t identical, they can be mapped using the NAS Gateway Manager utility. Windows users can have auto-created home shares, using the user name to create an automatic mapping to their home directory on a share.

The Bobcat supports both snapshots and mirroring. Admins can mount snapshots as additional volumes, allowing users to recover their own files in the case of corrupt or accidentally deleted files.

Snapshots are scheduled or created manually. A first-in, first-out system deletes the oldest snapshot when volume limits are reached. Snapshots can be pinned to prevent deletion.

Mirroring creates a full copy of the current file system that, although initially read-only, can be promoted to primary file system. If the mirror is located across a WAN link, mirror copies can be updated at scheduled intervals asynchronously, which conserves bandwidth between devices. Synchronous mirroring is not supported. Mirroring has no performance penalty on data accessed by clients, as the back-end FC system is separate from the front-end client system. This means that clients see no degradation of file access performance during mirroring operations.

The Bobcat supports backup and restore operations through either the open NDMP standard or through CIFS or NFS client requests. Separate backup software is required; the Bobcat simply supports standard backup and restore protocols. The same is true of anti-virus scanning. The Bobcat does not supply server-based anti-virus scanners; it conforms to the APIs for both Symantec and McAfee anti-virus products.

The Bobcat supports user, group, and tree quotas for storage used. Tree quotas are usage conditions configured on a particular directory path and can be nested. Quotas produce reports or restrict space available.

The OnStor Bobcat 2200 NAS Gateway provides a lot of capability, including NAS support for multivendor back-end storage, storage virtualization, mirroring and snapshot capability, and some storage management features, all at a low starting price. With no browser-based management, Linux and Unix users are relegated to the command line, which may be a nonissue for some administrators.

In the above review, we misstated LDAP support for OnStor Bobcat 2200 NAS Gateway. The error has been corrected.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Reliability (20.0%)
Performance (20.0%)
Management (20.0%)
Scalability (20.0%)
Interoperability (10.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
OnStor Bobcat 2200 NAS Gateway 9.0 9.0 8.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 8.8